Les Misérables Review: 8 observations from a man who watched #LesMis twice on Xmas Opening

2012 #LesMis Christmas Eve composite

Continuing my musical preview (clips) tradition, I’ve been playing some LesMis songs especially Samantha Barks’ “On My Own” while I write these 8 observations:

  1. Yes, I watched #LesMis TWICE, back-to-back on Christmas Opening! Why not when it was C$7.99 per ticket thanks to cheap Tuesday pricing!
  2. The little boy and young Cosette absolutely stole my heart! Awesome job by Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and Isabelle Allen as young Cosette. I totally expected the scenes with Isabelle’s Cosette to be great (a great young Cosette is key to LesMis), but Daniel’s Gavroche was a total breath of unexpected fresh air. What a lively performance. I do feel the scene of Gavroche‘s death could have been tweaked a little differently to make it even better.
  3. Anne Hathaway gave a wonderful performance as Fantine! I initially wrote (film unseen) and believed Anne would “create a transcending experience that we have NEVER experience in a LIVE singing musical film EVER.” After watching the film twice, I concluded that what made the film magical is the combined power of songs and images! Once I logically think that, I kinda forced myself to conclude all the songs (i.e. audio alone) in the LesMis 2012 can/will not replace the versions of the same stage versions I learned to love and treasure over the years. For me, I appreciate the wide vocal range and full volume of stage recorded musical versions which bring things up a notch, instead of to the near death tragic level matching the image we see on screen. Have a listen to “Lea Salonga – I Dreamed A Dream at the 25th Anniversary Concert” which I can listen to over and over again. I know Anne‘s rendition of I Dreamed A Dream made many people cry but I had expected so much much more from it and at the end it truly made me sad that I can’t honest say I love/like it. I wonder was it the camera movement, or the editing, or the really weak dying singing voice (in accordance to the style of the film)? I don’t know.
  4. Hugh Jackman gave an awesome performance.  I now confirm my belief that without Hugh, there is no LIVE singing LesMis! No disrespect to Hugh, I truly doubt the film’s renditions will have much lasting impact in replacing any other classics stage versions. By the way, you should know that “Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean in the Broadway and West End musical productions, makes a cameo appearance as the Bishop of Digne“! My ears were in heaven when I realized who Colm was and he was singing with Hugh!
  5. questioned openly if Russell Crowe can sing? Yes, Russell tried his best and he was great in ensemble scenes. And when the camera is closeup on Russell, his acting helped out his singing by quite a bit. Unfortunately, there were solo scenes that did not sound good enough, including the disappointing concluding classic number Javert’s Suicide. Given Russell is not a professional singer, I think he did the best he could.
  6. If you are curious, Roberta Duchak (Facebook) is the voice coach for Russell and Hugh.
  7. Samantha Barks rocks! You probably know Samantha actually “starred as Éponine in the London production of Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre” for a year from 2010-2011. So no wonder her “On My Own” is so well sung.Have a watch of her spectacular “On My Own” at the 25th anniversary performance of Les Miserables. I hope she will get nominated for an Oscar best supporting actress so we can see more of her.
  8. The pairing of Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Eddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy rocks too. The scene where Cosette first met Marius was magical and remained magical for me the second time I watched it. Amanda has beautiful voice and she was perfectly casted as the innocent Cosette. I have seen Eddie acted before and now confirmed 100% that his voice is just divine. Yes, he also has won his Tony before.
  9. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the comic relief work done by Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier and Sacha Baron Cohen as Thénardier. Their roles added some needed fun and humour into a very serious film/musical. For those who can only see  Sacha as the crazy & rude Borat, I hope you now have been convinced. As Johnny Depp (his co-star in Sweeney Toddsaid of Sacha, “He’s kind of today’s equivalent of Peter Sellers.” Right on! And Helena is purely Helena! She can play this type of roles with both eyes closed and both hands tied in the back! Just awesome!
  10. I’ve seen two screenings, people clapped at the end of both screenings. A friend told me clapping also happened at her screening in Vancouver.
  11. Finally, LesMis 2012 changed the game of musical on film, I am not sure I can or will accept going by to watch lip-synced musical film. At the same time, live stage musical sang in a stage manner (over-exaggerated a bit, a la “Lea Salonga – I Dreamed A Dream“) will still be appreciated by musical lovers.
  12. Have a listen to “On My Own” “I Dreamed A Dream“.

This article is cross posted by me to examiner.

Bonus update Dec 27th: Adding the following after interesting discussions with commenters over here.

From Deborah: “I kind of feel that the expectations you mentioned having about Anne’s singing may have set up the disappointment. I, went in with little to no expectation of her singing, and felt it wrenched much more from me than Lea’s rendition. […] I am curious about how you would like to have tweaked Gavroche’s death. I felt something missing but as the film is still so fresh in my head, I do not know how I would like to fill that which is missing…”

My reply to Deborah: “Yes, you are right on. I, unfortunately, failed to keep my expectation in check and let it run wild. But then I truly believe what I wrote was possible. The problem is I was critical of Lea’s rendition before I watch Les Mis 2012 too! I even argue with my professionally trained singer/advisor (she sang soprano) saying Lea’s 25th anniversary rendition had some of the words sang way too clearly and enunciated way too prominently. Thus expecting Anne’s (actually, in general, a LIVE singing acting way) will be “better” and involve me emotionally even more! Well, I doubt my expectations could have been reachable by anyone. But if I were Tom Hopper, I would push and push more to try.
re Gavroche’s death: I think it is the script I have problem with. The death scene made me felt like Gavroche was taunting the soliders. It dragged on a few more movement than I want? May be kill him in with the second shot? I don’t know. I have to watch it again to say for sure. And the steadicam final look into his face seem odd. May be that is the position of his body or the look on his face?”

Deborah: “Oh – and I fell in love with the voices and the actresses portrayals of Cosette…”

My reply: “Which Cosette? :)
Isabelle Allen as young Cosette had to rock and she definitely did when she started singing in her scene!
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette is flawless too! She has to have the look of innocent and the voice of an angel to match. And she did. I like her when I first noticed Amanda Seyfried in Mean Girls. In fact, everyone did a good job in Mean Girls especially Lindsay Lohan. Lindsay is such a talented actress and I hope she can get back on track in her career. I felt she is one of the child actress that we (the viewing public) help wreck her life, of course, her own actions are to blame too, but then without the success provided by us public, she may live a different life.”

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